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7660 Fay Avenue, La Jolla

A round, cactus-like object sits atop a bed of white daikon shreds, gently waving purple-black spines. It's the first course of your dinner: live uni. You tell yourself twice that this will not be nearly the same as the notorious dinner scene in Hannibal -- the lovely, fearsome creature is a mere invertebrate, about as intelligent as a carrot. The sushi chef removes the dish to his work area and does some quick delicate surgery below eye level. Then he returns the sea urchin to view. It is no longer alive. Its cavity is now filled with fine white rice-noodles, topped with two quivering yellow-pink lobes of sea urchin roe and a scattering of the crunchy black roe of some other creature. The spines slowly stop waving. The uni tastes like undersea clouds -- and you know for certain it's fresh, but it's one sashimi that's not for the faint of heart. Zenbu offers this specialty most weekends, along with live spot prawns for their ama ebi; call to verify that the urchins have come in.

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